I suppose the journey to be in contact with our child’s birth mother started even before we were matched with our daughter. It was in the early days when whispers of others’ falsified documents and inconsistencies lurked like shadows. I dismissed all ill feelings knowing that our agency was not corrupt and we were good people.
When we were matched with our daughter, we read our documents thoroughly and reassured ourselves that her story was air-tight.
But still. Still those whispers circled and became louder. They became the voices of friends with falsified documents. Friends who were given bogus stories and half truths.
I had to know if our paperwork was right. I wanted the whole story and despite meeting our daughter’s birth mother while in Ethiopia, I still had so many questions. I felt like I owed it to my daughter to do everything I could to get the whole story, so we hired a searcher to check things out before too much time had passed and our daughter’s birth mother moved away…or worse…
I checked social media and email incessantly the week our searcher was working on our case. I was hungry for any information he could give us. Finally, one afternoon I checked my messages and I had received four pictures of her. It took my breath away. She had on her quiet smile and characteristic head tilt. Two and a half years had passed and there she was, staring at me from my computer screen.
We learned all sorts of information from that searcher’s interview, and we were also given her phone number. A sort of, “Oh by the way, here’s her mobile in case you want to get in touch with her.”
I’m sorry, what? She has a cell phone!? What a HUGE game changer!
I sat with her number for some time, unsure of how to proceed. While I may have been able to reach her, I still had the language barrier looming in front of me.
Luckily for us, we live in the Twin Cities where there is a very large Ethiopian-American population. It’s even estimated that the Twin Cities has the largest group of Oromo people (one of the ethnic groups in Ethiopia) outside of Ethiopia with roughly 35,000 living in the metro! So, needless to say, we had a few connections to help arrange an interpreter.
A dear friend offered to interpret for us via a three-way call option. When the time arrived, my heart beat wildly as I held my cell phone, almost as if I were about to dial a junior high crush. My hands were nearly shaking as I typed in all the numbers needed to reach a phone in Ethiopia. Worlds were colliding and it was absolutely shocking and beautiful and right. It felt so right.
After a few unsuccessful attempts due to network problems, a young woman answered on the other side of the call, on the other side of the world. “Hallow?”
I don’t recall anymore how long our first conversation was, perhaps an hour or two. We covered so much ground. We caught up. We asked questions. We got answers. We got more questions. But best of all, we connected. She told my daughter that she loved her. We told her we loved her too.
There have been countless phone calls since. We keep learning about one another, sharing our lives and sharing this child. When my daughter cut her own hair, I felt nervous to share that but felt I needed to. I mean, she really cut her hair. Like she cut so much off we had to basically buzz what was left. I cautiously shared the event, a little worried that our daughter’s birth mom would think I wasn’t caring well enough for our little girl. Instead of expressing disappointment or sadness, she laughed! Then she shared that she did the same thing when she was my daughter’s age.
By far, this connection has been one of the most special in my life. I feel very fortunate to have an open International adoption, and I also feel incredibly grateful that it is a healthy relationship for all involved. Not every adoption story gets to have a component like this, and it is a distinct privilege to be a part of one that does.
We are planning to visit Ethiopia again soon and hope to not only spend time with my daughter’s birth mother, but also meet my daughter’s Ethiopian cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandfather. I hope and pray that this connection helps my daughter form a full picture of who she is and where she came from, and that she’s able to use that strong foundation to go wherever her dreams take her.